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You probably shouldn’t eat cicadas if you’re allergic to shellfish

But if you’re not, crunch away

Five cicadas hanging out on some lush green leaves.
Magicicada periodical cicadas, members of Brood X, cluster on a plant at Fairland Recreational Park June 01, 2021 in Burtonsville, Maryland.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Brood X is back and ready for action. After a 17-year nap, the cicadas of the Eastern US have emerged to scream, mate, and perhaps pick up a fungus that turns them into “horror movie sex bots.” While some people have been dreading the return of the screeching multitudes, others have eagerly awaited the brood with tasty bug recipes in hand. But before you run to the nearest cicada cookout, be aware that you’ll probably want to avoid these crunchy morsels if you have a shellfish allergy.

If you’re allergic to shellfish, it’s entirely possible that you’ll have a reaction to eating certain insects. After all, what are shrimps and lobsters but bugs of the sea? Seriously, in the colonial era lobsters were only food for poor and incarcerated people because they were seen as bottom-dwelling roaches rather than a delicacy.

Like their ocean-based cousins, cicadas are arthropods. Their bodies contain similar proteins, which is what the body overreacts to in an allergic response. Their chitinous exoskeletons can also irritate your (or your pet’s) gut in larger quantities, even if you’re not allergic. But generally, insects are a perfectly good source of nutrition that are eaten around the world and might be the future of food. So if you’ve never had a problem with seafood, go ahead and chow down while the buffet is still open.